Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling

By David Wolman

When did ghost gather its silent h? Will our on-line world kill the only in rhubarb? And was once it fairly rocket scientists who invented spell-check?

In Righting the mummy Tongue, writer David Wolman tells the cockamamie tale of English spelling, in terms of a wordly experience from English battlefields to Google headquarters. alongside the best way, he joins spelling reformers picketing the nationwide spelling bee, visits the city in Belgium—not England—where the 1st English books have been published, and takes a highway journey with the boss at Merriam-Webster Inc. Wolman punctuates the adventure with spelling wars waged through the likes of Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster, Theodore Roosevelt, and Andrew Carnegie.

Rich with historical past, popular culture, interest, and humor, Righting the mum Tongue explores how English spelling got here to be, strains efforts to fix the code, and imagines the form of tomorrow's words.

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John Gable, government director of the Theodore Roosevelt organization, speculates that Roosevelt’s reference to spelling reform used to be truly counterproductive to the reason. “All of a surprising it grew to become approximately Roosevelt and his egotism—that he may perhaps imagine he might rewrite the English language. ” Roosevelt was once such an impossible to resist aim for ridicule via cartoons and editorials, that spelling reform turned “a guffawing inventory in a fashion it may possibly now not were. ”40 the author H. L. Mencken famous that “the buffoonery traditionally thrown concerning the subject by means of Roosevelt, served simply to elevate up enemies. ”41 In the same vein, the very nature of public curiosity in, and scrutiny of, wealthy and robust humans made Carnegie’s organization with spelling reform suspicious, as though the harmless topic of orthography was once associated with a few shady company time table. forty two one other setback used to be the choice to carry the yearly Board conferences at New York’s prestigious Waldorf-Astoria resort. Dewey and corporate consistently struggled to realize credibility and def lect accusations that spelling reform used to be little greater than a frivolous 118 A top notch guy type of gentlemen’s activity. It’s complicated, then, that the Board paid for contributors from out of city to stick on the Waldorf, with their households, and hosted a lavish dinner party with personalized menus. That’s to not say the conferences have been all tarts and trifles. at the time table for the 1913 amassing have been a variety of papers together with: “The Use of S and Z for his or her Respectiv Sounds in all Cases,” provided through Professor Oliver F. Emerson of Western Reserve, and “Simplification of Spelling in precedent days, or the beginning of the Greek Alfabet,” offered by way of Professor George Hempl of Stanford. yet mostly the Waldorf conferences epitomized a crusade that, within the eyes of an increasing number of humans, used to be a waste of time and effort. nonetheless, think what may have occurred if Carnegie, so concerned about spelling reform, had augmented his dedication to the song of some extra zeros. He had signed on, in spite of everything, simply because he believed in education—the related cause that led him to the reason for public libraries. It’s now not outlandish to imagine convinced motion the following or dialog there may need led the brash capitalist to finish replaced spelling method used to be the major to literacy and schooling. In 1917, Carnegie gave his ultimate donation to the Board, quickly and then he made up our minds that the gang used to be “useless. ” “I imagine i've been sufferer lengthy enuf,” he wrote. “I have far better use for twenty-five thousand funds a 12 months. ”43 That’s to not say that he deserted the assumption at center. whilst international battle i started in 1914, after such a lot of his contemporaries had already severed their connection to simplified spelling, Carnegie puzzled aloud even if a higher English orthography could have catalyzed adequate foreign figuring out to have avoided the good warfare. forty four Dewey wrote certainly one of Carnegie’s handlers in 1917, in regards to the philanthropist’s choice to 119 RIGHTING the mum TONGU E flip off the tap: “The struggle makes it dubly desirabl to paintings simply now.

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